In previous blogs I noted some of the really straightforward learnings from my recent trip to Bethel, as well as the first two challenges (risk-taking, and fivefold leadership) that I've had to process more.
This was my first team trip to Bethel. I hadn't been in the team that visited in September 2022, but had many conversations with those who had been, and so I was expectant! As I've said before, such visits to other churches are really important for those of us that work in pastoral leadership roles - they keep us fresh and learning, and provide space for personal refreshing and encounter with God.
Over the last few decades (mostly in my life as an adult Christian) there has been a radical and exciting transformation in church worship. The 1960s and '70s saw a move of the Holy Spirit renewing individuals, that led to a renewal of the forms of gathered worship. Expressed as it would have been in the language of the time: "the dry wineskins of formal religion were insufficient to accommodate the new life of the Spirit!"
Arriving at Bethel for my first Sunday morning, I was struck by the scale of everything. Having been directed by a series of welcoming stewards to the huge car park, a sizeable building lay before me. As well as housing a worship centre for a thousand committed and enthusiastic worshippers, the building is also home to Bethel's Christian school along with several church offices and spacious training rooms.
A talk from Senior Pastor Steve Jones about how we see and do gathered worship in OCC.
Breaking bread (aka communion, Eucharist, Lord's supper) is one of the few things that Jesus commanded the church to continue. It's no surprise then, that in every church tradition, it remains a key aspect of worship and shared life.
Because of the education and employment dynamics of Oxford city, a significant number of people join in at OCC each year, as well as people moving on. As new people join in, they often come from different church backgrounds, with different emphases and approaches to breaking bread, so we wanted to take a moment to explain how we do it in OCC.
In our worship service yesterday, worship leader Chris Fulton said, at one point, "We have no plan! Over to you!" I don't know how you responded to that? Did you see it as an act of brave faith, or of reckless leadership?
"We have no pre-determined plan! Let's see what God does as we meet!" has long been a core practice of our sort of church. When I found myself becoming part of Oxford Community Church in the 1980s, it was standard practice to meet for what some call 'open worship' - and we used to call 'body meetings'.
Throughout the summer, we have been so enriched by a series of sermons on the Psalms. Ruth Morton brought an invitation from Psalm 133, to be united, and to experience the rich blessings that God has for his people when we dwell together in unity.
Just a few psalms later, David writes of the individual and intimate knowledge that God has of each one of us: "Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether" Psalm 139:4
On Sunday 26th July, we gathered for a one-off Sunday service at The King’s Centre. If you missed it, you can catch up here.
As we began our time together, Jenny Mahtani led us in a call to worship, bringing our emotions and hopes before God in worship - listen again from 6:24.